Ever since last fall’s announcement trailer, people (like myself) have had multiple questions about the Nintendo Switch. What was the price? What kind of games would we see? What were the specs? When could we get our hands on it? What kind of online service will it have? What about backwards compatibility?
Nintendo finally released answers to some of the above questions in a live stream from Japan. While I wanted this to be a slam dunk for them…it wasn’t. They got some stuff right but not as much as I wish they had. So I put together a list of some of the things that Nintendo did get right and some of the things that Nintendo still needs to work on for the Switch to do well.
No sensor bar, no second screen and a better elevator pitch: the Switch is a home console that you can take with you and keep playing. The Wii U never had clear messaging and tried to be too many things and failed. I think that the fact that the Switch is essentially a tablet helps as well. The Wii U came out in 2012, two years after the iPad when tablets were still something of a luxury item. Now they’re commonplace. A tablet that can play Nintendo games and you can plug it into your TV is a much easier concept for consumers. Also the name “Switch” just sounds better than Wii and actually ties into the main feature of the console.
This one is a mixed bag but I think I’ll credit it as something that worked. We’ve started to expect Nintendo to not focus on making the most powerful current hardware but to do new and different things with older tech. While I wish this was a machine that could play the newest Triple-A games, I’m also not a fan of the opposite approach that Sony and Microsoft are taking. Both companies are releasing new expensive machines that are incrementally more powerful than their predecessors but not much else. We’re not seeing the drastic jump in graphics from Super Nintendo to N64 anymore or even the PlayStation 2 to PlayStation 3. Console tech had plateaued a bit and I’d rather have new and different tech that allows me to do things like continue playing a game on the go. Also from what we’ve seen so far, Switch games are going to look good more than good enough for the average consumer.
What needs work:
The console price and price of accessories
Selling the Switch for $300 isn’t terrible but $250 would have made it a must have thing. The NES classic flew off of shelves in part because it was only $60. It doesn’t help that since the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One have been out longer, they’ve dropped in price to be cheaper than the Switch but are still more powerful than it. Unfortunately, the accessories for the Switch are even more overpriced. The dock which is essentially just a base for the console to connect to the TV is $90 and single joy-con controllers are $50 or $80 for a pair. Back when we didn’t know the price of the Switch, I was theorizing (and hoping) that the console price would be offset by accessories. Have Nintendo sell the system for cheaper but make back the cost through extra base stations and controllers. We now know that that isn’t the case. It’s only a matter of time until the console will have a price drop and hopefully, they’ll either drop the prices for accessories or other companies will make comparable versions for cheaper.
They showed some great first party games (Zelda Breath of the Wild, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Splatoon 2, Super Mario Odyssey) and it was nice to see Skyrim on a Nintendo console, especially on a portable one, but we’re not sure what we’ll see going forward. The Wii U had things like New Super Mario Bros. U, Call of Duty Black Ops. II, Assassins Creed III and Batman Arkham City on launch day but was never known for great third party games. I don’t think that Nintendo will be able to change this but I think that they should court indie game makers. The PlayStation Vita also didn’t have many Triple-A games after launch but stayed afloat thanks to smaller indie games. The Switch in a lot of ways is the Nintendo version of the Vita. Something that a lot of people forget is that the original Wii was actually a really great console for retro games and had nearly 400 of them over its lifetime. If the Switch can turn into a portable retro arcade loaded with Nintendo, Super Nintendo, Nintendo 64, Sega Genesis and Nintendo GameCube games then I think that we’ll have more than enough games to play.